Hi ladies. I want to talk about so much in this article. There are so many things about health, fitness, sickness, injuries, and disorders that I want to touch on. God has been putting on my heart for sometime now to open up about this part of my life. I’ve put it off for long enough. Now I don’t know where to begin or even how to say all the things I want to say.
The word “health” is not a word that describes just one thing. There are so many ins and outs that go along with the true meaning of the word. It is very complex.
First, let me share a little bit of my health journey and then I want to get into how we can overcome, by the power of Jesus all of our individual struggles with leading a healthy lifestyle, mentally, physically, emotionally and spiritually.
When I was 12, my dad was diagnosed with Bi-Polar type 3 verging on the side of Schizophrenia.
By now it has progressed to Schizophrenia. Living with a dad that has a mental disability is different from living with someone with a physical disability. Since you can’t really see visibly any damage it’s so hard to understand someone dealing with something you can’t see. He struggled with major, life-threatening depression some days. Other days he struggled with severe mania where he would be hyper manic and not able to calm himself down.
Medication of course helped but it would slow him down so much some days my dad wouldn’t even leave his seat on the couch. Being a little girl seeing her dad so up and down all the time caused some unknown and unseen damage in my life as well. I struggled to love my dad my entire life but growing older I see now that my poor dad can’t control his sickness and he hated himself just as much as I had hated him. Now I love him and just want him to be at peace in his mind and soul. This has given me so much insight about mental and invisible problems in myself and others, but more on this a little later.
When I was 16 I was rearranging some furniture in my room by myself. Lifting heavy objects, moving bookshelves, bunk beds, and wardrobes. I didn’t feel anything till the next day.
I woke up unable to move. My back was in unbearable pain.
I went to see some doctors and had MRI’s, Cat Scans and X-rays done. It turns out I had slightly ruptured 2 discs on either side of my lower spine. Making it very painful even to climb a few steps, lift a milk jug, or even sit on the couch. They gave me pain killers but they made me so sick I quit taking them after 2 weeks.
Miraculously, I didn’t need to be on bed rest for 6 months like the doctors told me I would have to. I was only down and out for about 3 months. My back began to get stronger on its own. However, I never fully healed and I have been dealing with moderate to extreme lower back pain ever since. It’s been 7 years in December.
In 2014, two weeks before Christmas when I was 20, (I had been dealing with a lot of back pain that winter, it comes and goes but I notice it 10 times more in the cold) I woke up and tried to go downstairs. But I noticed my legs felt numb. I couldn’t move, my chest started shutting down and I couldn’t breathe, the corners of the room started going black and eventually I could only see things directly in front of me as far as my hand could reach. My mom heard me trying to breathe and rushed me to the ER. By time I got there the attack had subsided and there was nothing the doctor could do for me. He told me I had hyperventilated probably from my back pain. But it was something else.
During the last two years of my life I began having mini attacks as we called them. My mom said it was gall stones in my gall bladder and I was having gall stone attacks. For the longest time we thought that’s what it was. I would feel an incredible amount of pain in my chest like an elephant was stepping on me. It would travel into my back and neck and up into my temples. Sometimes they would only last 10 minutes. Sometimes an hour.
Early this spring after I got married I had one of the worst attacks of my life.
It happened in the middle of the night. Dylan almost rushed me to the hospital but I told him it would just go away by time we got there. It did go away but Dylan wanted me to see a doctor for it. We did several tests at the hospital and they said it may or may not be my gall bladder because I wasn’t responding to the tests like a normal person with gall stone issues. But we decided to have surgery anyways to get it out and see if it fixed the problem. It took me a month to recover but a couple of weeks after surgery I had another attack. This time I wasn’t going back to the doctors.
I did a lot of research and after talking to friends and family I finally found out what it was. I was having mild to severe anxiety attacks.
The one back in 2014 was the worst and then the ones this spring were very similar and close. I realized I’d been plagued by anxiety from a young age. I don’t know the exact reason why I have anxiety… I trigger it to my past, moving to new houses and towns 17 times before I turned 18, my dad’s mental debilitation, and many more private battles. To be honest, when I realized I might have anxiety I hated myself. My thinking pattern was this: there is no reason that I should have anxiety, other people with much worse problems should have anxiety, I am so weak and dramatic to think I have anxiety, I am a christian and I should have more trust in God, I have a beautiful marriage and a great life-there’s no reason I should have anxiety.
These thoughts followed me everywhere I went! I was so mad at myself and what I was finding out about myself. I went into a dark place of being depressed again, hating my body, hating my health situation, and hating myself. I blamed myself for everything. My family and friends had a lot of encouragement for me but I was still confused.
Eventually, and thankfully, God pulled me out of my self-pity. He showed me so many truths-not overnight mind you, but over the course of a few months. I am now ready and happy to be sharing with you all what He spoke to me. One day, I was trying to work out and I just sat down by a wall and started crying. Jesus gently told me that it was OK.
Jesus said it was OK to sit in a corner and cry just as long as I let Him in to hold me and cry with me.
I am seriously tearing up writing this right now. He just want’s to be with us-in our worst and best moments. Our Father is so loving, so understanding, He knows full well what is going on with our bodies, our hearts, and our moment to moment feelings.
Later Jesus taught me to find something to do everyday that makes me happy. Even if it’s something as small as buying a mocha or taking a bath with a cup of tea. It’s not selfish or some kind of “self-love” program. It’s literally just living life to the fullest (John 10:10).
And thirdly, Jesus didn’t teach us to condemn ourselves or to judge ourselves which is exactly what I was doing. Jesus doesn’t want us to deny ourselves love and grace. Sometimes learning to love others and appreciate others is actually learning to love Christ in us, His strength in us, His heart in us. So He taught me to appreciate my body, my health journey, my back pain, and my anxiety. It sounds ridiculous but it’s not. We need to have grace for ourselves! We hate so many things about ourselves but I know that God doesn’t and He doesn’t like it when we do either.
This quote from of my favorite authors brings so much truth to this story:
“Our vision is so limited we can hardly imagine a love that does not show itself in protection from suffering…. The love of God did not protect His own Son…. He will not necessarily protect us – not from anything it takes to make us like His Son. A lot of hammering and chiseling and purifying by fire will have to go into the process.”
― Elisabeth Elliot
I am still trying to figure it out and have grace with my body and mind every day but it is way harder to do than it is to simply say. Some days, I just crash on the couch and have to spend an hour convincing myself that I will have a good day and plan out an hour at a time of things to do to keep me busy and from falling into a funk. Some days I’m full of energy and super happy and accomplish everything I had planned. God just keeps telling me to take it one day at a time. Working on things specifically personalized for that day because we will never get that day back.
I know that so many of you are struggling with so much more than I on your health journey.
I am so happy that you took the time to read this and I am sorry if I sounded whiny! But I encourage you on your health journey to remember these 4 things:
1. It’s OK to curl up in a corner and cry and have a bad day as long as you let Jesus cry with you.
2. Find something to do everyday that makes you happy. Grab a warm cup of tea and a book for an hour or so, or go get your hair done (as long as our bank account or husband allows) but as long as you give yourself the freedom to do SOMETHING that you know brings happiness to your day.
3. Have grace for yourself, your health, and your day. Don’t get mad at your situation or yourself anymore. Realize that if Jesus has grace and love for you-so should you. Be at peace with your journey!
4. Take everything one day at a time. Don’t get ahead of yourself or plan when you will be better or when you’ll be healthier or when you won’t be struggling anymore. Just go one day at a time. Keep working out, keep smiling, keep praying and keep staying strong even if you’re only strong on the inside.
I truly hope that this has helped you even a little. Let me know some of your health journeys or struggles. I would love to hear from you. Be on the lookout for part 2 of this article where we will talk about physical exercise, leading a healthy lifestyle mentally, and physically and how/why it is so good for you and your future. Please let me know what you think about all of this in the comments, God bless!